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  • Writer's pictureTaylore Gills

NCAA Women's Basketball: Watkins, Fulwiley, and Hidalgo Prove Themselves as the Exhilarating Freshmen to Watch

Since November, NCAA women's basketball freshmen have been putting on superlative performances across the country. While adjusting to collegiate-level hoops is an immense struggle for some, others have entered the new territory as if they own it. Three of those players include University of Southern Califonia's JuJu Watkins, South Carolina’s MiLaysia Fulwiley, and Notre Dame’s Hannah Hidalgo. With stellar highlight reels even this far in the season, fans everywhere are anticipating the greatness ahead for each of them.


1. JuJu Watkins - USC


JuJu Watkins gets buckets. It’s as simple as that. Whether she’s behind the arc, slicing the defense in half on her way to the hoop, or nailing a smooth fadeaway jumper, she’s a scorer. She averages 26.8 points per game and has led USC to a 9-0 record thus far. 


When Watkins committed to USC, speculators began anticipating how her collegiate success would compare to that of former Trojan and WNBA legend, Lisa Leslie. Leslie set numerous records, and Watkins began breaking them during her debut in cardinal and gold. During that game, she scored 32 points, exceeding Leslie’s 30-point debut performance in 1990. 


With five 30+ point games only halfway into the season, Watkins has yet to lower the heat on her intensity. She comes out of the locker room ready to prove why she was ESPN’s top recruit in her 2023 high school class. 


Watkins is currently the second leading scorer in NCAA WBB, only behind Iowa’s Caitlin Clark. After reaching these milestones so early in her collegiate career, it’s safe to say that there are many more accolades in her future. 


2. MaLaysia Fulwiley - South Carolina


MiLaysia Fulwiley has stunned basketball fans everywhere with her agility and ability to deceive opponents. During the guard’s debut with the Gamecocks on November 6, she executed one of the most jaw-dropping finishes in NCAA history. 


Off a fast break, Fulwiley went behind the back, ball-faked to her forward, Kamilla Cardoso, and then went up and under to finish the layup - all in less than two seconds. Thousands of fans shook the arena with shouts of amazement, realizing they were witnessing generational talent. Her flashy finish also went viral on social media, gaining over six million views on Bleacher Report. 




Magic Johnson even tweeted about her, stating that it was “the best move he has ever seen in all of basketball.” 


The tricks up Fulwiley’s sleeves are endless, and she has not ceased to amaze her fans since November’s season opener. In addition to the thrilling finishes, her no-look passes and spectacular ball-handling skills cause her to stand out from her peers.


3. Hannah Hidalgo - Notre Dame


When Hannah Hidalgo steps foot on the court, confidence oozes out of her. Whether offensively or defensively, she takes every opportunity to advance her team. 



This 5’6 guard is an undeniable walking bucket, averaging 23.6 points per game. She skillfully attacks the basket and is no stranger to knocking down multiple 3-pointers within game regulation.  


Her quick hands also create opportunities for steals, where her average per game is 6.1. That’s what truly separates her from the rest. She’s a fiery two-way player that defenders must keep a sharp eye on at all times. Hidalgo’s excellent court vision allows her to know just the perfect time to interrupt a pass or completely strip the ball out of her opponent’s possession.


Overall, Hidalgo’s presence is vital to Notre Dame’s success. She is the spark of the squad and provides such high-energy play night in and night out. 




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